Subject: [FFML] [fanfic][UY/Ranma/SisPri] "Lonely Souls" Prologue "Light Before The Dark"
From: Frederick Herriot
Date: 2/17/2002, 7:52 PM
To: Fanfiction Mailing List

Minna-san,

Well, here it is, about six months after I started
writing Part 1 of this story.  The writer's notes
(which can be changed if necessary) are at the end of
the Prologue's text.  Enjoy!

Fred

P.S.  The following chapters will be changed to
reflect the fact that Kaho, Yotsuba and Shirayuki ALSO
use third-person form of speech (though Shirayuki-chan
uses "Hime" [Princess] instead of her name).

=====
Fred Herriotfherriot@yahoo.com**** **** ****"Fanfiction IS Real Life!"**** **** ****

______________________________________________________________________ 
Web-hosting solutions for home and business! http://website.yahoo.ca

-- Attached file included as plaintext by Ecartis --
-- File: LoneS-00.TXT
-- Desc: LoneS-00.TXT

       Somewhere in darkness...

     The young sorceress sits in her high-backed, velvet chair, 
absently gliding a cleaning rag over her favoured crystal ball.  
Before her stands a well-crafted wooden table, five tarot cars face
down directly before her.  Around the sorceress is a square of lit 
white candles.  Barely visible in the darkness directly ahead of the
sorceress, beyond the candles, is a doorway that connected Chikage
Hirosaki to the mundane world beyond.

     Hirosaki...?

     "Is that who I am?" she whispers, gazing at the opaque ball on 
her lap.  "Is that...?" she dramatically pauses.  "Who I really am?"

     The ball glows softly in her hands, then the light melts into
an image.  A facial shot of a teenage man, barely older than she.  
Chikage blinks as she takes in his measure.  He seems a typical
city-grown fellow, yet there was a...!  A untamed WILDNESS deep 
inside him.  Best noticed in his eyes, the sorceress muses, then she
relaxes herself.  Yet, to most normal people, this fellow would seem
quite plain.  Dull, actually.

     But Chikage was certainly NOT a normal person.

     Not by far.

     "Are you him...?" she whispers.

     She stares at the tarot cards before her.  A hand touches the 
far right card.  It is flipped around.  The Twins.  "Family..."
Chikage whispers, then stares once more at the image in her ball.

     "Yes..." she breathes out, closing her eyes.  Her hand gently
caresses the ball.  "You are him, aren't you...?" the barest hint of
a smile tugs her mouth as she commits the image to memory.

     "...Ani-kun."

     Suddenly, the image in her crystal ball changes.  Chikage 
watches as the image morphs into that of another person, this time
of a young woman.  One of great beauty and passion.  Yet, like her 
Ani-kun -- in fact, even more so than Ani-kun -- this one also 
contained within her heart a cauldron of wild fury.  Who was she?  
Someone who might take Ani-kun away?

     Chikage stares at her tarot cards.  Her hand falls on the second
card to the right.  It is flipped.  The Temperance card.  Chikage
blinks, then her eyes slightly widen.  "So it is not meant to be.  
Not this round," the sorceress sighs, then smiles.  "But you will not
take Ani-kun away from me, from us, will you?  For you need us just
as much as Ani-kun will need us, won't you...?" she closes her eyes
as images, as visions, flood her mind.

     "...Ane-kun?"

*    *    *

"Lonely Souls"
by Fred Herriot
fherriot@yahoo.com
**** **** ****
Based on "Urusei Yatsura" and "Ranma 1/2," created by Rumiko 
Takahashi; and "Sister Princess," created by Naoto Tenhiro and 
Sakurako Kimino.  This story is set after the end of the "UY" and 
"Ranma" manga series.
**** **** ****

NOTE:  The writer's notes are at the end of the text below.

**** **** ****

THE PROLOGUE - LIGHT BEFORE THE DARK

     Tomobiki, nighttime, start of winter vacation...

     "Baka Kaa-san!  How could she ask Lum to cook tonight's meal?!"

     An annoyed Ataru Moroboshi storms down the street towards the 
one place in all of his hometown he could call a true refuge from the
madness which had haunted him for so long:  Tampopo's Ramen and 
Beefbowl Bar.  And yes, tonight, he needed that refuge.  Not that he
would always seek that, especially these days.  Truth be told, if he
had the chance to sit down and talk it over with Lum, he could've
shown her the error of her ways.  After all, he had at least two 
catastrophic encounters with Oni cooking (he got turned into twins
one time; the second, a werewolf) to show Lum that what might be good
for an Oni's palate wouldn't be so good for a Terrans.

     But, no!  Not this time.  When he got back from the library,
Lum was busy in the kitchen cooking...!  Well, Ataru didn't know how
to describe the strange pile of SOMETHING in the pot on the stove.
Before he could wonder what was happening, his mother came down from
her room, announcing that she and her husband were going out for the
evening.  So, because it was also some important Oni holiday, too --
which one it might be, Ataru didn't hear -- it only seemed right to 
have Lum cook dinner.

     Before Ataru could protest, his parents quickly stepped out, his
mother parting with a warning:  "And DON'T run off to Tampopo's
like you always do, Ataru!"  Then the knife-twist.  "I wish I never
had you!"

     Remembering that, Ataru grimaces as he turns down the street
that led in front of Tampopo's.  The many times -- WAY too many to 
count -- Kinshou Moroboshi had said that to her own flesh-and-blood
race back through his mind's eyes.  *Baka a-ho Kaa-san!* he fumes.
Did she honestly think that he was just going to stand there and TAKE
all that crap for the rest of his life from her?!  Did she honestly
believe he wasn't hurt EVERY time she said that, acted as if he 
didn't really matter?  Stupid, selfish bi-...!

     Ataru sighs, his pace slowing down a bit.  Damn, he really 
shouldn't think things like THAT, should he?  Yeah, his mother was a 
first-class jerk and idiot.  And his father...?  Ataru snorts.  What
did that spineless fool ever do all the time?  Hide behind his paper
and ignore it all.  Or, when his wife cornered him to say something,
Muchi would go spout some idiot nonsense.  Ye gods, of all the things
that Fate could've dropped on Ataru's head, did She have to drop the
two worst parents in Creation Itself on him?

     That ALMOST made an eventual marriage to Lum worth it, Ataru
sighs.  Once he and the Oni were bonded together, he could then 
persuade her to take him away from this worthless dump, leaving
all the idiots at school -- and ESPECIALLY his parents -- behind
once and for all.  Let's see how the jerks here liked life WITHOUT
their favourite alien around to fawn over?

     *Yeah, it'd be almost worth it,* Ataru smirks as he opens the 
door and steps into Tampopo's.  "Konban wa, Tampopo-chan!"
he calls out.

     "Irasshaimase!  Konban wa, Ataru-chan!" Tampopo Kamekichi
looks up from her stove behind the counter, then quickly noting the
depressed mood on her favourite customer's face, frowns.  "Oh, no!  
What happened now?!"

     "Oh, Kaa-san's being her usual bakayaro self and left making
dinner to Lum," Ataru sits by the counter.  "Usual, please."

     "Sure thing," the stocky cooks gets to work making a beefbowl
with shrimp and rice cakes.  "Didn't you get a chance to talk Lum out
of cooking dinner or did Kinshou sweet-talk her into ignoring 
anything you said?"

     "The latter," he snorts.  "By the time I got back from the 
library, Kaa-san and Tou-san were about to go out on the town and Lum
was halfway through making..." a shudder races through him.  "Well,
making something.  What, I've got utterly no idea whatsoever!"
He gives her a wry grimace.  "And personally, I really don't WANT to
know what it is," he adds.

     "Oh, stupid girl!" Tampopo shakes her head.  "When is it ever
going to finally sink through her thick skull that you're not an Oni?
When you die from food poisoning, for heaven's sake?  When your 
heart's destroyed or you're crippled for life?  She should know 
better than that by now!"

     "Yeah, I know, I know," Ataru nods.  "Still, just before I came
in, I was thinking of one GOOD benefit of marrying her."

     "Oh?" she gazes curiously at him.  "What's that?"

     "That when we're married, we can move to her home planet and 
leave Baka Kaa-san and Baka Tou-san behind once and for all."

     Hearing that, Tampopo laughs.  "It'd serve those two idiots
right!" she wags a knowing finger his way, then turns back to the 
stove.

     Ataru sighs, then rises.  "Be right back."

     "Okay."

     He heads back to the washrooms.  Tampopo watches him go, then
sighs.  "They'd be better off without all the idiots flying out of 
the woodwork at them all the time," she mutters to herself, then 
blinks as the front door opens, heralded by a wind chime over the 
doorway ringing.  "Irasshaimase!" she looks at the door, then sighs.
"What are you doing here, Jariten?!"

     Floating by the doorway, Ten-chan ducks the annoyed stare 
Tampopo now sends his way.  He himself had been through enough 
encounters with the cook to understand that he'd get away with 
NOTHING here.  Besides, being hit by that pizza-sized spatula Tampopo
used when she made her Super-duper Special okonomiyaki HURT a lot!
"Um..." he tries to not appear threatening.  "I'm s-sorry t-ta come
in here, b-but Lum-chan was wondering where that a-..." he catches
himself before Tampopo winged him with a throwing spatula; she HATED
it when people called Ataru "stupid" or things like that, "...um,
ah, wh-where Ataru is," he chuckles.  "I mean, dinner's ready."

     A knowing hum escapes the cook.  "You of course mean dinner
for yourself and Lum, NOT Ataru-chan, right?" she wonders.

     Ten-chan blinks, then stammers.  "W-well, you see...!"

     Tampopo turns the heat on her stove down low, then she walks
over to stand before the young Oni.  Ten-chan tries not to bolt and
flee; he knew that, despite her girth, the cook moved like LIGHTNING
when she wanted to.  "Jariten, I'm going to tell you something.
And you will listen and when I am done, you will tell Lum that very
same thing, okay?"  At his jerky nod, she sighs.  "Ataru-chan
cares for Lum very much.  If there didn't have to deal with idiot,
nosy busybodies like you all the time, they'd probably be formally
engaged if not married by now.  But as long as people like you and 
all the fools at school -- and ESPECIALLY Ataru-chan's parents -- 
keep presuming you have the right to stick your noses where they 
don't belong, they'll never get there.  That, I'm sure you'll agree,
will make Lum VERY unhappy.  Won't it?" she stares knowingly at 
Ten-chan.

     "Um..." he shudders, then nods.  "Um, yeah!  I guess so."

     "Alright, then," she smiles, then jolts on feeling a hand on her
shoulder.  She turns, then blinks.  "Ataru-chan?"

     "It's alright, Tampopo-chan," Ataru smiles, then stares at 
Ten-chan.  "Yo, Ten, why don't you get Lum to get some plates of..."
he pauses, trying not to look repulsed, "...er, what was that stuff
she was cooking, anyway?"

     The young Oni blinks, blinks again, then chuckles.  "Oh, 
it's..."

     "It's okay, Ten-chan."

     The voice causes everyone to turn towards the open doorway,
where Lum now stands, an ashamed look on her face.  "Lum," Ataru 
blinks.

     "Gomen nasai, Darling," she walks in, keeping her hands to 
herself.  She had gone through her own troubles with Tampopo every
time she tried to drag Ataru away from this place.  Those incidents
had gone down a lot since some time before the Second Tag Race, but
Lum wasn't going to assume that all was well between herself and her
Darling's friend.  "I should've realized that you'd be scared of my 
cooking something."

     "I..." Ataru blinks, then chuckles.  "Oh, it's okay," he stares
at Tampopo.  "Um, did you bring...?" he notices her empty hands.

     "Iie," Lum shakes her head.  "As soon as I realized that you'd
come here, I threw it out.  Besides, it tasted a little too flat."

     Gazing at his would-be wife, Ataru wonders if Lum wasn't just
making that excuse up.  Then again, did it really matter?  "Hey, it's
okay," he reaches over to gently squeeze her shoulder, then waves
her to the counter.  "C'mon, let's have something to eat.  I assume
what Kaa-san said about this bein' some big holiday on your planet's
true, right?"

     Lum blinks, then nods.  "Un..."

*    *    *

     Elsewhere...

     Chikage stares at the tarot cards before her, then she picks
up the far right.  It is flipped around.  The Hermit.  "A 
reunion...?"  She then turns another card.  The Twins, again.  "And
another Ane-kun...?"

*    *    *

     "Liberation Day?!"

     "Hai," Lum bites into a forkful of kimch'i chige, a fried 
version of Korea's most well-known food dish.  The Oni -- both of 
them, in fact; Ten-chan was working on his second plate! -- 
appreciated Tampopo's willingness to give them something spicy.  
"It's the anniversary of our liberation from an evil race known as 
the Seifukusu.  It happened about...!" she pauses to do a quick 
mental calculation, then smiles.  "Oh, nine hundred years ago as you
tell time.  It's the most important holiday on our calendar."

     "Were they bad?" Ataru sips his water.  He didn't mind having
kimch'i chige when the mood struck him -- for one born in Japan,
listing several Korean dishes as some of his favourite was peculiar
-- but he certainly couldn't live with it every day of his life.  
"These...?  Seifukusu?"

     Lum shudders.  "They were monsters.  Still are, in fact.  That's
part of the reason we had to come to Earth, Darling."

     He considers that, then hums.  "So in other words, if they'd
shown up at the same time as you people did, we'd have had a choice
between 'bad' and 'worse,' right?" he nibbles some rice, then winces
on seeing the hurt look appear on her face.  "Oh, damn!  I'm..."
he slaps his forehead.

     Lum blinks, then wanly smiles.  "Daijoubu datcha, Darling,"
she bows her eyes.  "I suppose you have a right to think that, 
especially now."

     Ataru gazes at her.  "Lum...?"  Getting no response, he then 
smiles.  "Soo ka," he then takes up his glass of water.  "Well, Happy
Liberation Day, then.  Kampai!" he toasts his girlfriend.

     Lum blinks, then beams.  "Hai!  Kampai!"

     "Kampai!!" Ten-chan echoes her, living his own class.

     They touch glasses, then drink.  "Well, this is a lot better,"
Tampopo moves to clean the table behind Lum and Ten-chan.  "See what
showing a little civil restraint can do, Lum?"

     "Tampopo-san..."

     The front door opens.  "Irasshaimase!" Tampopo looks at the 
doorway, then pauses as a teenage girl Ataru's age steps inside 
before heading to the counter, the newcomer also heading that way.
The newcomer is dressed in a hooded track suit with stripped running
pants, the hood drawn over her head to ensure people did not get a 
close look at her.  Watching Ataru, Lum and Ten-chan chat away out of
the corner of her eye, the cook places herself in front of the 
newcomer.  "What would you like there?"

     "Herbal tea," the brown-haired, brown-eyed girl replies, then
glances briefly at Ataru out of the corner of her eye.

     Tampopo makes the order, lowering her voice to a bare whisper.
The newcomer would hear her.  "So you decided to come back now."

     "There is no choice," the newcomer replies, also keeping her 
voice low.  It wasn't truly necessary; if Lum or Jariten proved to be
a problem, they could be readily dealt with.  "Matters abroad..."
by this, she meant outer space, "...are rapidly turning against
the Onis.  Within a day, the United Nations will get word of a war 
between Lum's people and one of their more passionate enemies.
The people in the United Nations will look for any excuse to see Lum
sent home, thus ensuring that war will not come here."

     Tampopo blinks.  "It's that bad?"

     "It is that bad," the newcomer reports with a nod.  "Best to 
resolve matters now.  I will intercept Ataru when he goes to the 
washroom."

     Tampopo finishes with the tea, then sets the cup before the 
newcomer.  "It might've been better if you came earlier, Negako-san."

     The newcomer takes that in, then shakes her head.  "Too many 
things were still unknown to me when the Onis first came," she sighs,
sipping her tea.  "Plus, there was the matter with Nagaiwakai."

     "Have people figured that out yet?"

     "No, not yet.  Then again, is it truly relevant?"

     "True," Tampopo nods, then walks into her kitchen.

     She comes out a moment later with what appears to be a red 
pepper in hand, heading to Ataru's and Lum's table.  "Lum, how'd you
like to try this?" she hands it to the Oni.  "It's a Jalapeno pepper
from Mexico."

     Lum takes the pepper in hand, then bites into it.  She jerks
as the hot spices dance around her mouth, then she munches it down
and swallows it.  "That's good!" she smiles, then hands it to 
Ten-chan.  "Try it."

     The younger Oni takes his own bite, then whistles.  "Wow, this
IS good!  Where'd you get this, Tampopo-oneechan?!"

     The cook chuckles.  "There's an international food market down
in Shinjuku I raid every once in a while.  I'll give you the address
if you want.  Here, Ataru-chan, give it a try," she hands another
one to Ataru.

     Ataru takes it, then takes a tentative bite.  He jerks as his 
mouth nearly explodes, then he quickly gulps down some water.  
"Whoo!!" he then breathes out.  "Man, how can the Mexicans eat this
stuff?!"

     "It's just a little more tasty than kimch'i, Darling," Lum 
notes.

     Ataru takes several deep breaths to cool his mouth down.  "Well,
not all of us are blessed with a high tolerance for spices, Lum,"
he chuckles, then rises.  "Be right back.  I gotta raid the water
cooler."

     He heads to the washroom.  Not noticed by Lum or Ten-chan,
the newcomer at the counter rises, heading back to the washroom
herself.  "Oh, dear!" Lum sighs, reaching over to nibble on the 
pepper Tampopo had given Ataru.  "If Darling has a problem liking
something like this, he definitely couldn't enjoy a Liberation
Day festival back home."

     "Oh, give him time, Lum," Tampopo smiles.  "That's how a proper
relationship develops.  It requires time and patience..."

     An inhuman scream echoes from the direction of the washrooms,
causing Lum and Ten-chan to bolt up.  "DARLING!!!!" Lum flies back.

     "...which Negako-san still needs to learn, I see," Tampopo's
eyebrow twitches annoyingly as she looks back herself.

     Tampopo and Ten-chan watch as the stranger, her hood drawn back
from her head, carries a dazed Ataru from the washrooms.  A worried
Lum remains behind the newcomer as she places Ataru in his chair,
then touches several places on his head and the back of his neck.
Getting a closer look at the newcomer's face, Ten-chan is instantly
struck by the distant resemblance to Ataru, especially when it came
to hair and eye colour.

     As if she was...!

     "Is he alright?" Tampopo wonders.

     "Fortunately, what was done five years ago is easily undone,"
Negako reports.  "When he recovers, he'll be in shock as the memories
come back."

     "'Memories?!'" Lum blinks.  "What's going on here?!!" a surge
of fear and worry crawls up her spine.  "Who are you, anyway...?!"

     Negako stares at her, causing the older Oni to stop and gape as
her facial features become clearer.  "Lum, Ten, let her work," 
Tampopo moves to moderate.  "Ataru-chan needs help first.  
Explanations can come later."

     Lum blinks, then grudgingly nods...

*    *    *

     An empty lot, close to the Moroboshi home...

     "An ill air," Cherry's eyes are narrow as a hollow wind seems
to warp past him, then the monk turns to his sauce pan.  Drawing
out ingredients, he allows them to go into the pan, then waits for an
image to emerge.  When it does, his eyebrows arch.  "'Memory?'
What can that mean...?"

*    *    *

     A Shinto shrine...

     "Something has awoken," Sakura stares at her crystal ball.  
Within it flashes an image of Ataru, turning away from a crowd 
shrouded in darkness.  The priestess/nurse gazes closely at the image
of the crowd, quick to pick out certain details.  "Something
awakening in Moroboshi which will prompt him to leave Tomobiki?
Why?  What does this mean...?"

*    *    *

     "Darling, daijoubu datcha?!"

     Ataru moans, a cacophony of sound, images and feelings hazing
out Lum's pleading question.  "Leave him be for now, Lum," a strange
woman's voice then orders.  "He still needs time to adjust."

     That voice...

     Why was it so familiar...?

     Who...?

     Was it...?

     "Who are you, anyway?!" Ten-chan then asks.

     "Jariten!" Tampopo scolds.

     The stranger:  "Patience, Jariten.  All will be made clear 
soon."

     Her...

     The one who was once inside me...

     The one I let free...

     "Onee-chan...?"

     "Darling!"

     His eyes fully open, he now finding himself gazing at the 
ceiling of Tampopo's restaurant.  Instantly, a familiar face pops 
into view.  He gazes at her, then sighs.  "Oh, Lum, it's you..."
his head rolls right...

     ...as he finds himself staring into HER eyes.  Ataru blinks,
blinks again, then he slowly sits up before reaching out to touch
the side of Negako's face.  "Onee-chan...?" he whispers.  "Is that
you...?"

     Negako blinks, then lightly smiles.  "Yes, Ataru."

     The onlookers are silent as they watch this curious tableau.
Ataru blinks as his mind concentrates on the last moments five years
ago before so much was blanked out, then he gazes at Negako.  "She
made you do this to me, right?" he wonders, a sharp edge to his 
voice.  "Didn't she?"

     "She did," Negako lightly nods.  "At the time, she convinced
me that it would be safer for you that all knowledge of myself -- not
to mention the abilities my being inside you bestowed you, plus how
they came into being -- was suppressed.  She..." a pause, then Negako
closes her eyes.  "She convinced me that allowing any ties between
yourself and Nagaiwakai to remain intact would do you no good.  At 
that time, I did not..." another pause, "...comprehend the full 
extent of Kinshou's selfishness."

     Lum blinks.  "Darling's mother?!"

     "Yes," Negako gazes briefly on the Oni, then turns back to 
Ataru.  "If I had truly understood then what I do now, Ataru, I would
not have denied you your memories and knowledge.  For that, I am 
sorry."

     Ataru blinks, then cups Negako's cheeks, a light smile crossing
his face.  "You mean that, don't you?" he chuckles.  "You really
mean that?"

     "I have said it," Negako replies.

     "Darling!!" Lum growls.  "If she said she's sorry, you 
can't...!"

     "Lum, you don't understand," Ataru waves the Oni down, then 
sighs, shaking his head as he looks heavenward.  "Oh, damn!  This'd
be a lot easier if things hadn't bit me in the ass five years ago..."

     "Among other places," Negako adds.

     Ataru jolts, then stares at her before a grin crosses his face.
"Well, I'll be damned!  You can tell a joke after all!"

     "Much that I do not see the necessity of expressing emotions
as you might, Ataru, it does not mean that I cannot tell a joke,"
Negako winks.

     That was true, Ataru muses, though Negako's reply to his comment
was as dry as Sahara dust.  "Yeah, you got that point, I guess,"
he chuckles, then glances at Lum, quickly noting the frustration
etched into the Oni's face.  "Oh, gomen, gomen, Lum!" he catches
himself before indicating Negako.  "I guess you need to understand
what's going on here."

     "It would be appreciated," Lum dryly notes.

     Sensing her sarcasm, he sighs.  "Well, it's like this..."

*    *    *

     About ten minutes later, a explosive geyser of electricity
shoots through the roof of Tampopo's Ramen and Beefbowl Bar, echoed
by Lum's outraged cry of, "***SHE DID 
WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!***"

     Seeing the geyser of lightning from the town park, Ataru's
parents blink, then exchange knowing a look.  "Oh, good grief, what
has that idiot son of ours done now?!" Kinshou shakes her head, 
imagining the potential fallout of yet ANOTHER of Lum's 
lightning-laced temper-tantrums.

     If she only knew...

*    *    *

     Tampopo's...

     "***YOU MEAN TO TELL ME SHE BLANKED OUT YOUR MEMORIES OF YOUR
FAMILY JUST BECAUSE SHE HATED YOUR GRANDMOTHER?!?!?!***"

     "That's about right," Ataru, unaffected by Lum's lightning
burst (a decided change from previous times the Oni lost control
of her powers), nods.  Negako is currently enjoying another cup of 
herbal tea.  Tampopo and Ten-chan were busy inspecting the damage
in the ceiling.  "Don't ask me why this happened between Obaa-chan
and *her*..." his voice drips with scorn.  "Try as I might, I 
couldn't make *her* understand why I hated it..."

     "What could you expect, Ataru-chan?" Tampopo muses.  "After
all, that's the way Kinshou's treated you all along."

     Lum gazes at the cook, then turns to Negako.  "So Tampopo-san
knew about what happened all along.  Did you tell her, Negako-san?"

     "There was no need," Negako reports.  "Tampopo here possesses
her own sort of -- 'mission-curse,' if I may describe it as that.
She is compelled to seek out those children who have suffered 
emotional abuse from their parents, befriend them, then aid them into
bettering their lives."

     "Her family, too?" Lum blinks.

     "No, Tampopo herself.  She is much more than she seems, Lum."

     Lum blinks, gazing at Tampopo, then she shrugs.  "I guess so."

     "You're not bugged by that?" Ataru wonders.

     "Darling, on a trading station close to my home planet, there's
a being there -- his name's Koruneko -- who's believed to have lived
for thirty thousand years," Lum admits.  "Hai, I've been really 
bugged at times whenever Tampopo-san's moved to shield you from me or
the others, but I've never ONCE been compelled to attack her like I 
went after Shinobu after we first met.  I assume that's because
of some empathic power she has..."

     "Let me have my secrets there, Negako-san," Tampopo warns.

     "Your choice, Tampopo," Negako lightly shrugs, then reaches
into her track top to draw out a folded document.  "The Court of 
Special Review has prepared this for your review and approval,
Ataru.  It concerns your legal status vis-a-vis Kinshou and Muchi.
I have requested to become your legal guardian for the remaining
time you are underage.  When you become twenty, you will then be 
acknowledged as the new Patriarch of the Moroboshi Clan."

     She hands it to him.  Ataru takes it, then opens it before 
gazing nowhere in particular.  "When did she die, Onee-chan?"

     "The sixth day of your first tag race with Lum."

     Lum jolts, then bows her head.  "Darling, I'm so sorry..."

     Ataru blinks, then smiles on feeling her hand grip his.  
"Thanks, Lum-chan," he squeezes her hand, then begins to read.

     "You should realize, Lum, that if Ataru does allow me to become
his legal guardian, your engagement to him will then have no legal
standing in Japanese society," Negako warns.  "I believe even your
planet's laws will state such an engagement cannot be since they 
demand the head of a clan must have final say in a coupling between
members of two different clans."

     "Hai, that's true," Lum nods, a twinge of worry flashing deep
in her heart, then she sighs, shaking her head.  "But if those two 
idiots believed they could manipulate me into keeping Darling down
just to get their hands on his grandmother's fortune and all that,
they're mistaken, VERY mistaken!  I can only imagine what Daddy'll
think when he learns of this!!"

     "He'll hit the roof!" Ten-chan smirks.

     "And most likely, fly through it," Negako adds.

     Everyone stares at her.  Ataru smirks.  "You're getting there,
Onee-chan," he turns back to the document in his hand, then he sighs.
"Well, that's clear enough to me.  Tampopo-chan, can I get my hanko,
please?"

     "Alright," Tampopo heads into the kitchen.

     "You keep your hanko here?" Lum's eyes widen.

     "Yeah," Ataru chuckles, then sighs.  "After you came -- and 
please, Lum, don't take this personally -- I felt I had to find a 
place where I can keep the very important stuff, especially away from
those who might want to really screw around with my life.  Besides,"
he nods towards Tampopo as she returns from the kitchen, a small,
black case in hand.  "Tampopo-chan is, believe it or not, a special
'notary public' with the Family Registrar of Japan.  Shocked the hell
out of me when she told me that."

     "I felt becoming that was necessary just in case instances
like this happen," Tampopo sighs.  "Can I see that, please, 
Ataru-chan?"

     "Hai," Ataru hands the document over, then notices the pinched
look on Lum's face.  "Hey, what's with the rainy-day look, Lum?" he 
smiles.

     "I guess I haven't done much to really earn your trust, have I,
Darling?" the Oni closes her eyes, feeling them sting with tears.

     "Hey," Ataru reaches over to cup her chin, tilting her head up 
so they could gaze into the other's eyes.  "Now cut it out.  Look at
it this way, Lum-chan:  would you WANT to continue living under a 
lie?"

     "No, of course not!  But...!"

     "But nothing," he taps her nose.  "Okay, a lot of illusions
just got torn apart and flushed down the tubes tonight.  But it isn't
the end of the world.  It's a whole new beginning, Lum-chan.  For me
AND you, too.  What happens, now that those idiots are out of the 
way, is between us to figure out.  There's no dishonour in letting
all this crap fall apart.  Not for me, not for you and not for your
family.  What's wrong with that?"

     Lum blinks, then nods.  "Hai, if you think so, Darling."

     Hearing them, Negako remains curiously silent, though her eyes
do fall on the walls of Tampopo's establishment.  Hmm.  Freshly
painted.

     Some fools think they are SO intelligent...

*    *    *

     Nearby, minutes later...

     "Kaneda-san, is this possible?!"

     Isamu Kaneda, a special agent of the Public Security 
Intelligence Bureau who normally dealt with counter-intelligence
matters, gravely nods.  "Yes, Gospodin Tuchenko, it IS possible.
Indeed, if the Court of Special Review is involved in this, it is not
JUST possible.  It will happen as much as Moroboshi-kun and 
Moroboshi-sensei presently foresee it."

     The other intelligence officers seated in the monitor room, 
located two blocks away from Tampopo's, nod understandingly.
Gazing at the others gathered here, Isamu is amazed.  Elsewhere
in the world, these people's friends and co-workers were busy working
to undermine each other in pursuit of their home government's
overall goals.  But here, in the one place on Earth where 
uncontrolled contact between Terrans and other races was permitted,
these people had been forced to become -- well, if not friends,
working acquaintances.  Intelligence they gathered on aliens like Lum
was always pooled here, then distributed to their controlling
officers home.

     Hearing the PSIB officer's reply, Grigory Alekseyevich
Tuchenko, an agent of the Russian SVR (and the KGB when the Soviet
Union was still a single nation), nods.  Beside him, Mark Reilly
of the CIA snorts.  "It's about fuckin' time, if you guys ask me.  
You know, every friggin' time that bitch said 'I wish I never had 
you' to that poor guy, I seriously dreamed of the day I'd take a gun
and shoot her dead!  How can any mother to that to their own kid, for
cryin' out loud?!  Now hearin' that...!" he waves to the computer
linked to the various sensors that could potentially allow these 
people to eavesdrop on almost any conversation in Tomobiki.

     "I dare say, my friend, that justice is truly about to be 
served," Basel Wallis, a long-time agent of the British SIS, sips his
tea.

     "Agreed," Chai Ling, of mainland China's Ministry of State 
Security (and the only woman in this group), nods, then turns to the
Japanese agent.  "How soon with this Special Review Court make this
happen, Kaneda-san?"

     "In all effect, Comrade Ling, it HAS happened," Isamu then 
smiles.  "Strange to see a Japanese court of law move so quickly,
ne?"

     Laughter fills the room.  "It is, mon ami, a delightful
change for once," Rene Falques, a French DGSE officer, hoists his 
coffee in a toast.

     "Bloody right about that!" Basel smirks.  "So once the dear boy
is finally free of those monsters who sired him, what then?"

     "I suspect that when he becomes of age -- it's twenty here in 
Japan as you know -- he will likely declare them roonin and expel
them from the Moroboshi clan," Isamu explains.  "That sort of fate
is greatly feared in my society, my friends.  Even if Kinshou's
own birth-family agrees to take Muchi on using her maiden name, it is
too late.  The news of that will spread quickly thanks to those 
private investigators companies employ to ensure their workers'
'purity,'" his mouth twists distastefully.

     "It's as bad as being declared burakumin?" Grigory wonders.

     "Not THAT extreme, my friend, but close," Isamu sighs.  "I 
suspect when it is all said and done, Muchi will lose his job.  They
will most likely be forced to leave Tomobiki, relocate themselves
elsewhere.  That, in and of itself, will mark them as odd."  A wry 
smile crosses his face.  "Yes, my friends, as I said, they will be 
marked for life because of this.  If Ataru-kun really wants revenge
against his parents for all they've done to him -- especially
what we heard now -- this is the way to do it."

     "Good for him," Basel nods.

     "Hear, hear!" Mike whoops.  "Well, now that those two are out of
the way thanks to this Negako (whoever the hell she is), we can 
concentrate on doin' what our governments want us to do:  get rid of
Lum."

     The others nod.  Having lived in Tomobiki since just after the
First Tag Race, the various intelligence officers had often been 
appalled by the unhinged behaviour aliens like Lum had shown here.
Many times had they all said to themselves, "They call US 
uncivilized?!"  Thus, when orders finally arrived from their 
controllers concerning finding some way to see Lum and her 
countrypeople forever expelled from Earth, they gladly got to work.

     The Second Tag Race had left a vile taste in many people's
mouths.

     "Easily done, mes amis," Rene sighs.  "Once Lum is no longer
engaged by either Earth or Oni law, she technically has no reason
to stay on Earth.  We know she came here to pursue a marriage with
Ataru, do we not?"

     "But what if Ataru DOES want to marry her?" Mark asks.  "I mean,
it's pretty obvious he really does like her deep down."

     "I think, my friends, we'll have to wait on discerning that 
until matters with Comrade Moroboshi settle themselves out," Chai 
cuts in.  "At this time, I believe we have messages to send to our 
friends back home?"

     The others stare at the MSS officer, then nod...

*    *    *

     Chikage turns a card over.  The Moon.  "Many watching 
Ani-kun...?"

*    *    *

     The Moroboshi home, an hour later...

     "Ataru?!  Lum-chan?!  Are you here?"

     The front door closes behind Muchi and Kinshou as they walk into
the foyer connecting the living room and kitchen with the stairs
to the second floor.  Noting the silence that responds to her hail,
Ataru's mother then frowns, ascending to Ataru's room.  "Ataru?!
Are you here...?"

     She slides the door open, then stops, her jaw dropping on seeing
the empty room awaiting her.  ALMOST empty, that is; Ataru now sits
at the windowsill, gazing outside.  "Ataru!" Kinshou growls, stepping
inside.  "Why didn't you answer me, you stupid boy?!  Where's 
Lum-chan...?"

     The door slams shut behind her, causing Kinshou to spin around,
then she jolts on seeing Lum standing there now, a hooded look in the
Oni girl's face.  "Lum-chan!  What's going on here?!" she tries not
to shiver.  While Lum is on Earth, Kinshou shared legal custody
of her with her husband.  But even with that, Ataru's mother knew not
to push matters too much with Lum.

     "I would've appreciated learning when Grandma died, you know."

     Kinshou stops, a chill as cold as an Arctic wind freezing
her in place, then she turns slowly around to gaze on Ataru.  His 
eyes are closed, he still having not decided to look at the woman
who gave birth to him.  Sensing the iron control he now projected,
Kinshou turns sheet-white.

     He remembered.

     Everything.

     "A-ataru, wait..." she feebly stammers.  "You don't 
understand..."

     "So it's all true, isn't it?" Lum growls, sparks flashing
over her body as she fixes the older woman with a stare that could
melt neutronium.  "All because you hated your MOTHER-IN-LAW,
you deliberately took advantage of Darling's kindness to another
sentient being, then tricked Negako-san into blanking Darling's
memories of the only elements of his family who truly LOVED him?  
Then, when Ten-chan and I came to live with you, you goaded us both
into keeping Darling down, forcing us together so you could embezzle
Darling's inheritance when we got married, then leave him with 
NOTHING at all?!  WELL?!?!" lightning snaps in her hands, causing
Kinshou to leap back in terror from the Oni.  "Isn't it true?!  ISN'T
IT?!!"

     "Lum, don't!" Ataru calls out as Kinshou nearly crumples on 
herself.  "Don't bother," he shakes his head.  "She's not worth it."

     Lum stops, then nods.  "You're right, Darling.  She's NOT worth
it.  Neither is her husband.  Maybe it's time we left them once and
for all."

     "Hai, the stench is getting high here, I guess," Ataru smirks,
then glares down at Kinshou.  She shudders, then looks pleadingly
at him.  His fists clench, then relax as he summons a gob of spit,
firing it into her face.  She recoils, then looks nowhere in 
particular, stunned that all that she had done to secure her future
happiness had crashed so easily.

     "You and your husband are both dead to me, Kinshou Yamaguchi,"
Ataru then declares, his voice frightfully neutral.  "As of today,
all legal rights you had concerning me have been stripped from you.
I no longer consider myself your son, but you won't get any 
satisfaction from that, I assure you," he holds up a finger.  
"Negako-oneechan is my legal guardian now.  I don't think you'll
be able to do much against her, ne?"

     Kinshou gargles, her face turning sheet-white as the image of 
that living machine of destruction, a being born from the 
carefully-preserved knowledge of over a millennium's worth of 
ninjitsu and other martial arts masters, flashes through her mind.
Lum walks around her, taking Ataru's hand in her own.  "Darling,
ikumatcha?" she smiles.

     "One more thing," Ataru holds up a finger, then glares once more
at the woman who is his mother only by genetics.  "When I become
of age, you will both be stricken from the clan register and made 
roonin.  So, if you don't want to live with just one name, I strongly
suggest you make up with your relatives, Kinshou.  Then again, given
what a greedy bitch you really are, I somehow have to wonder if 
they'd WANT you back!  Iko, Lum."

     "Hai!" Lum boosts Ataru into the air, then they fly out the 
window, Ataru's mocking laughter echoing through the air.

     In the empty room they left behind, Kinshou remains still, then
an outraged scream escapes her.  "DAMN YOU, YOU OLD COW!!!!!!"

     A lightning bolt then jabs through the window to fry her!

*    *    *

     Chikage turns a card.  Justice.  "Freedom for Ani-kun..."

*    *    *

     Tampopo's, the next morning...

     "So where did you sleep last night?"

     "Where do you think?" Lum gives the stocky cook a pouting look,
then grins as Tampopo places a kimch'i-laced beefbowl before the Oni.
"Ten-chan was pretty mad about it because Negako-san kept him away
from my ship."

     "I wanted to see what you were doing, Lum-chan!" Ten-chan
moans, then jerks on feeling Negako's finger stab into his forehead.

     "That is none of your affair, Jariten," Negako sighs.  "Leave
them be.  Your cousin is happy with Ataru.  Be thankful for that."

     "Yeah, Ten, you really shouldn't worry about it now," Ataru 
slurps down his ramen with rice cakes, then he slyly grins.  "Unless
you want to find Mari-chan and start practising things with her?"

     The young Oni awks.  "NO WAY!!!!"

     Laughter escapes everyone else but Negako.  In the brief time
she had come to know this being, Lum learned that most "normal"
human emotions were alien things to her.  In many ways, Negako 
Moroboshi reminded Lum of CAO-2, the abusive robot teacher who had 
once been used to "babysit" Lum, Benten and Oyuki when they were 
children.  Then again, given what her Darling had said about his 
adopted sister's abilities, Negako could most likely easily reduce
CAO-2 into a pile of scrap metal with but the touch of a finger.

     "So what has to happen now with Darling?" Lum stares at Negako.

     The ninjitsu grandmistress -- the title was hers automatically
given the knowledge that was her birthright -- sighs.  "I will have
to make some repairs to Ataru's immunity system before indoctrinating
him properly in the Art.  Not here in Tomobiki, of course.  Ataru's
classmates at school, especially Shutaro Mendou, Aisuru Megane and 
others, will greatly fear his 'evolving' from an annoying nuisance
into a being who could kill them with but a touch of a finger.  To 
most bullies and hazers, nothing frightens them more then when one of
their victims turns the tables against them, especially in front of 
others.  A public duel between Ataru and Shutaro would, if done 
right, destroy Shutaro's reputation, especially among those women
who fawn over him all the time.  Aisuru?  The same result.  Perhaps
even worse if Ataru fights Keizou Sedoyama in public.  Or Rei, 
perhaps?"

     Lum jolts on hearing her former boyfriend's name, then she 
sighs.  "Lan-chan won't like that at all, Negako-san," she warns.

     "Do you fear Lan might strike back at Ataru in revenge?"

     "Probably, especially now that Lan and Rei've become so close."

     Ataru shakes his head.  "Somehow, I don't think Lan-chan'll
ever get much out of that jerk, Lum.  I mean, all he cares about is 
food, food and more food, right?  Ask any yatai owner around here.
Hey, Tampopo-chan, how many of 'em've been cleaned out by that big 
pig, anyway?"

     "Too many to count," Tampopo sighs.  "Lucky thing for me that
I can deal with idiots like that.  Though it IS strange that he 
always tries to come here every time he visits Tomobiki, even with
Lan ready to cook a feast for him."  She then hums.  "Maybe I've 
brained him too much?"

     Ataru laughs.  "Not exactly," Negako shakes her head.

     Everyone turns to her, surprised by her willingness to defend
the Oni pilot who had, at the beginning, come close to killing Ataru
so he could "win" Lum back.  "Why'd ya say that, Negako-oneechan?"
Ten-chan blinks.

     "Rei suffers from dyslexia and dysphonia."

     Silence.  "Dyslexia AND dysphonia?!" Ataru gapes.

     "I've heard of dyslexia, but not dysphonia," Lum shakes her 
head.

     "Dysphonia is where a person has an inability to vocalize
his or her thoughts," Tampopo explains, then sighs.  "No doubt, 
because of that, his endless hunger and the fact that he can't fly 
like other Onis can, he must've been seriously ostracized when he was
Jariten's age."

     "He was," Lum nods.

     "Jeez!" Ataru winces.  "Poor guy."

     The door then opens.  "Irasshaimase!" Tampopo calls out, then
her eyebrow arches on seeing who now stood there.  "Oh, Jay-san,
Kay-san.  What brings the venerable 'Men in Black' to my 
establishment today?"

     "And a good morning to you, too, Tampopo," a silver-haired
American in a black business suit slips off his Ray-Ban sunglasses.
Gazing at the two agents of the United Nations Special Committee
on Alien Affairs -- the "Men in Black," as they were so nicknamed
-- Ataru is immediately reminded of Mendou's personal bodyguards,
the Kuromegane.  However, compared to the SCAA field agents, the 
Kuromegane were a pack of stumbling incompetents.  "And a good 
morning to you people," Kay then nods at Ataru and Lum.

     "Ohayou, Kay-san, Jay-san," Lum nods to Kay, then his partner,
a young African-American with a moustache and goatee.  "So what 
brings you people over to see us today?  Nothing wrong, I hope?"

     Kay and Jay exchange a look, then sigh.  "I'm afraid, Lum, we've
got some real bad news," Kay sighs.  "Can we talk in private?"

     Ataru and Lum blink, then exchange a look...

*    *    *

     Chikage turns a tarot card, then grimaces.  Death.  "War..."

*    *    *

     "The Noukiites?!!"

     Everyone sits in a back corner booth of Tampopo's establishment.
The sign had been changed to CLOSED and the curtains drawn to 
guarantee some privacy.  "'Afraid so," Kay shakes his head.  "About
seventy hours ago, a colonial militia squadron staging from Machibusu
sneaked over the line into Noukiite space to raid a convoy of 
refugees leaving Okusei for one of the Dominion's newer colonies
beyond Noukiios itself."

     "The Noukiites have new colonies?" Ten-chan gapes.

     "Five of them, all terraformed, though no one know how it 
happened or who did it," Jay sips his coffee.  "The Inquisition's
still investigating."

     "You mean even the Inquisition doesn't know?" Ataru's jaw drops
in surprise.  "That's being really off the ball, even for THOSE 
guys!"

     The Onis stare wide-eyed at Ataru.  "Darling, how do you know
about the Holy Inquisition?" Lum gapes.

     Ataru sighs, then shakes his head.  "Sorry, Lum-chan.  I 
should've mentioned this, though I guess it doesn't matter now.  My 
grandmother was a Righteous Gentile of the Protestant Reformist
Church of Zephyrus."

     Lum jolts, wide-eyed, then she relaxes.  "Soo datcha..."

     "Lady Nagaiwakai was also the one who got us our gear," Kay 
opens the flap of his jacket to reveal a holstered Lawgiver, a 
computer-controlled, photon-plasma pistol with multi-targeting
command and shooting ability.

     "Wow!" Ten-chan whistles, drifting close to Negako's shoulder.
"To believe Uncle chose Ataru to be Earth's tag champ!"

     "Got that right, little guy!" Jay smirks.

     "So what happened?" Ataru wonders.  "I don't know much about
these Noukiites at all, save for them being neighbours of the Holy
Republic."

     "Well, in a nutshell, think of what Japan did to Korea back at 
the start of the century, then tack onto it three very nice colony
planets that the Noukiites settled long ago, planets the Urusians
also want," Kay sighs.  "For the last two hundred years, the Urusians
have done almost everything possible to force the Noukiites away from
those three worlds."

     "Including illegal attacks by volunteer colonial paramilitary
forces over the border," Jay adds, holding up a finger.

     "That's not true!!!" Lum protests.

     "Lum, c'mon!!" Jay stares at the Oni.  "Everyone knows that!"

     "I...!" Lum stops herself, then sighs.  "Well, I asked Daddy
about it once and he denied it, but..." she looks down.

     "He didn't sound convincing?" Ataru gently prods.

     "Hai."

     Everyone sighs.  "It's alright, Lum.  It's not your fault,"
Kay sighs.  "Anyhow, the Oni militia gets close to Okusei, then they
get bushwhacked by the Ip'ihu.  They're the Noukiite equivalent
of the Oni colonial militia," he adds for Ataru's benefit.  "Atop
that, there are Noukiite naval craft there.  They pitch into the 
fight and capture one of the militia vessels.  The surviving 
militiamen are interrogated and made to confess that they operate
with support from the government in Onishuto."

     "WHAT?!?!" Lum cries out.

     "Is this EVERYONE in the Oni government?" Ataru wonders.

     "Fortunately, no," Kay shakes his head.  "The Onis've been 
living under the rule of a military junta for the last two hundred
years, but in their government, you've got a wide span of opinions.
Lum's father, for example, is progressive as they come.  Some of them
are quite liberal, working for the day Uru becomes a true democracy.
And some..."

     He pauses, shrugging.  Ataru sighs.  "Want to turn back the 
clock to something that people wouldn't really like?" he finishes.

     "Exactly," the SCAA agent nods.  "Well, the instant they got 
wind of that, the Noukiites sent a secret message to the Zephyrites,
informing them that they couldn't tolerate this continued disregard
of their home space by elements of the Urusian government.  To that
end, today, an all-out attack was launched on Machibusu, hitting
both the naval bases there and the known militia bases.  It was a 
complete surprise attack.  Details are sketchy, but I'm afraid to say
that your people took heavy losses, Lum," he stares at the Oni.  
"Most likely, by tomorrow, your people'll be at war."

     Silence falls as Lum considers Kay's words, then she looks down.
"Five centuries of hate..." she whispers.

     "Lum?" Ataru places a hand on her shoulder.

     "Five centuries, Darling," she returns his look.  "That's how 
long we've known those people.  And..." she shakes her head, looking
back at the table.  "It's like Kay said.  Think of what's gone on 
between Japan and Korea, especially with what happened early this 
century, then..."

     Her voice trails off.  "The Eo War, the 'protectorate'
that led to a century-long occupation, the Union Revolution,
the dispute over Okusei and the two other colony planets, the Ip'ihu,
the colonial militia..." Jay shakes his head.  "Man, that's one BIG
mess to get settled out."

     "Soo datcha," Lum nods.

     "So what happens to Lum?" Ataru wonders.  "She could've learned
all this from her father.  Why are you guys here?"

     Kay and Jay exchange a knowing look, then sigh.  "Ataru, along
with that message the Noukiites sent to the Zephyrites was a 
warning," the former sighs, indicating Lum.  "The Noukiites,
pretty much because they have no love for the Onis, know about what
Lum's presence here has caused.  In their eyes, it would be sheer
poetry to kidnap her, then drag her off to face a Dominion court for
violating the Galactic Non-Interference Treaty, of which both Lum's
people and the Noukiites are signatories to.  Now, never mind that
the so-called 'invasion' which led to Tag Race One was actually
a bluff to make several other powers leave us be..."

     "The Seifukusu being one, right?" Ataru cuts in.

     "You know about them?" Jay asks.

     "Lum told me last night.  There are more?"

     "One other race, the Ipraedies," Kay provides.

     Ataru blinks, then shakes his head.  "Never heard of them."

     "Be thankful for that, Darling," Lum sighs.

     "Well, anyhow," Kay moves to return to more important matters.
"The Noukiites warned that if Lum and all other Oni citizens don't
leave Earth and return to Urusian space very soon, they..." his voice
trails off.

     "They'll come here to get her, the little guy here and the 
psycho-airhead that's living here, too," Jay finishes.

     Hearing that, Lum's eyes go wide.  "They said that?!"

     "I'm afraid so," Kay nods.

     "There's another way out, you know," Ataru proposes.

     "Not a chance of pulling that off, pal," Jay shakes his head.
"If you're thinking of trying to use your grandma's influence
to keep Lum free of the Inquisition, you're wrong.  Instant she goes
into Zephyrite space, she's as good as in the dock at Star Chamber
on Jiyuu."

     Ataru winces, Lum turning sheet-white at the thought of finding
herself facing the magistrates of Star Chamber.  The chief law 
enforcement group within the Holy Republic of Zephyrus, the Holy 
Inquisition was well-renowned -- and likewise feared! -- galaxy wide
for their ruthless ability to track down "heretics" and see them 
brought to justice, both inside and outside the Republic's borders.
Zephyrite justice, Ataru knew, was quite brutal in its own right.
Capital punishment, known as "excommunication" on Zephyrus, was 
frequently used for those guilty of serious crimes.  And, yes, if you
faced Star Chamber (the equivalent of a federal circuit court of 
appeals in the United States), your chances of acquittal were small.

     "Damn," Ataru sighs, then senses Lum staring at him.  Without
hesitation, he draws her into a one-armed embrace.

     "Arigatou, Darling," Lum kisses his cheek.

     "THIS is surprising!" Jay blinks.

     "That it is," Kay chuckles, then sighs.  "I'm sorry to ruin the
mood even more, but there's one other thing I have to tell you, Lum."

     Lum stares at the SCAA agent, then lowers her head.  
"Wakatatcha."

     "What?!" Ataru blinks.

     "You will not be allowed to leave Earth, Ataru."

     Eyes turn to Negako, then Ataru turns back to Kay.  "Now, just
hold on a second here!  I'm not going to let Lum go back home ALONE
in the midst of a goddamned shooting war, for heaven's sake...!"

     "Ataru, that's not the point!" Kay holds up a hand, then as soon
as Ataru calms down, he explains.  "Look, Ataru, I know you really
mean well, but Lum's safest bet is to be on Uru, where her father
and a whole load of combat troops can keep an eye on her.  I don't
think the Noukiites will press this into an all-out, no-holds-barred
sort of thing.  All they'd want is for Uru to publicly give up claims
on Okusei, Kurrusei and Tunchusei, plus disband the colonial militias
on Machibusu and elsewhere.  It's not going to be an intergalactic
version of World War Two, alright."

     Ataru considers that, then feels a hand on his shoulder.
He turns right to see Negako sitting there, concern etched in her 
face.  "There is another concern, Ataru," the ninjitsu grandmistress
warns.

     He blinks, then sighs.  "Hai, Onee-chan, you're right."

     "Darling?" Lum stares at him.

     Ataru jolts, then reaches under the table to squeeze Lum's hand.
"I'll explain later, okay?" he kisses her cheek, then turns back to 
the SCAA people.  "Try not to make this permanent, okay?"

     "We'll try," Kay nods...

*    *    *

     Off the northwest shore of Hokkaido, two hours later...

     "Ne, Ataru, what did Negako-oneechan mean?" Ten-chan asks.

     Ataru and Lum stare at the young Oni, then the former sighs.
"She means something that has a lot to do with Onee-chan being in my
head from when I was six to five years ago, when Obaa-chan's
friends from Maigaru discovered her," he waves them with him towards
a large house a hundred metres away.  "Let's go over to the practice
field and I'll show you."

     They walk up a stone pathway towards the large mansion that,
until just over a year ago, Ataru's grandmother called home.  Staring
at the mansion, Lum is immediately reminded of the Mendou mansion.
She is quick to see the differences, however.  The Mendou home was 
littered, inside and out, with all sorts of items indicative
of the family's wealth:  statues galore (mostly of octopi, though
there WAS that one cursed goat statue, Lum remembers), priceless
antiques, old military gear and the like.

     The Moroboshi mansion on Rishiri-tou, however, was thoroughly
Spartan in its austerity.  Realizing that profound difference
between a family of selfish show-offs and a woman who obviously
thought it below her to rub her wealth into other people's faces,
Lum decides that she'd loved to have known Nagaiwakai Moroboshi.
*Would she have liked me?* she muses.

     "Yen for your thoughts?"

     Ataru gazes at her.  Lum blinks, then sighs.  "Gomen, Darling.
I was just thinking about how much you'll miss now that your 
grandmother's gone."

     He blinks, then nods, reaching for her hand.  "Yeah, I guess
so.  I didn't really get a chance to know her well (as you can 
guess), but..." he pauses, directing her around the house towards
the large farming field that extended to the very centre of the 
circle-shaped Rishiri-tou.  "Grandma was a lot of things, I guess,
but she was CARING most of all towards me.  She really was worried
about me, even living with *them* down in Tomobiki," his lips twist
into a frown, then he relaxes.  "I really wish I understood what 
happened between Grandma and...!  Well, you know," he shrugs.

     "It'll be okay in the end, Darling," Lum promises.

     "I hope so," he stares at the side of the mansion, then looks
north to the fields.  Now peacefully grazing in the tall grass was a 
good-sized herd of dairy cattle, about two hundred head, born of both
Oriental and Occidental stock.  Keeping watch on them were a pair of
men dressed in the plain robes of Zephyrite monks.  "Damn, they 
stayed behind?!" Ataru gapes.

     "They were not the only ones, Young Master!"

     The voice causes Ataru and Lum to spin around as something
leaps out of the shadows, melting into a lithe, teenage woman with
long, ponytailed black hair.  She is now dressed in a non-reflective
bodysuit, a sheathed gaikatana strapped to her back.  Staring at her,
Ataru's eyes widen in recognition.  "Jinseiko-chan, is that you?!"
he takes a step towards her.

     The woman looks up, revealing a well-sculptured face.  However,
there are faint laugh lines around her eyes.  The eyes themselves
seem hooded, Ataru notices.  No doubt, Jinseiko Fusegu would carry
the pain of her beloved mistress' death to the grave herself.  "Hai,
Young Master," she bows respectfully, then stares pleadingly
at him.  "Sir, I..." she starts, then drops to her knees and 
prostrates herself.  "Forgive me, Young Master!  We should've
been there for the Mistress!!  Oh, please, forgive me...!"

     "Hey, hey, HEY, that's enough!" Ataru kneels down to help the 
chief of Nagaiwakai's kunoichi bodyguard, the Kuromoroboshi,
to her feet, then he tilts her face up to stare into his.  "It's over
and done, Jinseiko-chan.  Yes, I'm hurting, too, but Grandma wouldn't
want us to flounder along like this, eh?  It's over and done, 
Jinseiko-chan.  Okay?"

     Jinseiko blinks, then faintly nods.  "Hai, wakarimashita..."

     Lum and Ten-chan exchange a look, then both tense as a large
shadow falls over them.  "Welcome back home, Young Master," a grave
voice causes both Onis to spin around and stare up and up and UP into
a granite-hewn face framed by black hair, embossed with the broken
ascending phoenix of the Holy Republic of Zephyrus.  "It is good to 
see you again."

     "Brother Sunfire," Ataru blinks, then walks over, dropping
to one knee to kiss the monk's offered ring.  After the Zephyrite
monk, once the personal spiritual advisor to Nagaiwakai Moroboshi,
bestows a blessing to her grandson, Ataru stands up.  "It's good to 
see you, too.  How many people stayed behind after Grandma...?"
he bites his lip.

     "All of us in the cabal who advised her, some of the farm hands,
plus Jinseiko and her co-workers," the monk reports, waving the 
visitors with him towards the cattle herd.  "Since matters concerning
your problems with those two people..." -- Lum could easily guess
who Brother Sunfire was now talking about -- "...have been in limbo
since the Mistress' passing into the Te'a, we haven't been able to 
properly decide what to do.  Mistress Negako has been able to help
in her own way, as has Master Komeru."

     "Komeru?" Lum blinks.

     "My uncle," Ataru provides.  "Where is he, anyway?"

     "In Peru or Bolivia, last I heard, exploring Inca ruins," 
Brother Sunfire sighs.  "We did try to get word to those people when
the Mistress passed away.  I called Kinshou directly, a fortnight
after the Tag Race ended," he glances at Lum.  "Unfortunately,
all she said in return was..." his lips twist quite distastefully,
then he sighs.  "Well..."

     "She was happy Grandma was dead and that she'd do everything
she could to get her hands on Grandma's money, right?  And that she
didn't care who tried to stand in her way, because she was in the 
right," Ataru sighs.

     "In much more vulgar language, I confess," Brother Sunfire
replies, then sighs.  "Well, the matter is somewhat better, now."

     "Young Master?" Jinseiko then tenses.  "Please...?"

     Ataru closes his eyes.  "No, Jinseiko.  Leave them alone."

     "But...!"

     He turns to the leader of the Kuromoroboshi.  "I said 'Leave
them alone,' Jinseiko-chan.  Killing those two idiots won't do a 
thing in the end.  Letting them live, in fear of what I COULD do to 
them, hurts more."

     "Ah..." Jinseiko balks, then sighs, bowing her head.  "Hai, 
Young Master, wakarimashita.  Forgive me for my impertinence."

     "It's alright," Ataru nods.

     "A pity it happened at all," Brother Sunfire sighs.

     "Darklight!!"

     Everyone turns as another monk, a bespectacled fellow who 
reminded the visitors from Tomobiki of Aisuru Megane, run up from the
mansion.  "What is the matter, Lightstar?" Brother Sunfire demands.

     "Forgive me," the younger monk, Lightstar Firewind, bows, then
turns to stare at Lum.  "We received a call from the Special 
Committee concerning you and your fellow Urusians, Miss Redet.  
You're going home.  Tonight."

     Hearing that, Ataru jolts, then looks nowhere in particular,
his hands clenching.  Ten-chan seems lost, he hovering close to Lum.
Lum's eyes go wide, then she bows her head.  "Soo datcha..."

*    *    *

     Chikage turns a card.  The Chariot.  "A parting...?"

*    *    *

     Tomobiki, nightfall...

     A hand slams down on the table.  "Damn it all, Kay, is there
ANYTHING you could've done to stop this?!  Tried to slow it 
down...?!"

     "Relax, Ataru!" Kay holds up his hand.  The look on both his 
face and his partner's echoes the angry shock now on Ataru's.  "The
Security Council caught us all by surprise.  Somehow, late yesterday,
people got wind of your divorce from your parents -- probably from
spies who've been working here in Tomobiki since after Tag One -- 
then decided that, since there was now no legitimate reason for her
to be here, they'd throw Lum off!"

     Ataru blinks.  He was meeting the two SCAA agents in the 
penthouse apartment of the Toranoseishin Fiances building, one of the
three tall skyscrapers located near Tampopo's establishment
in the heart of Tomobiki's business district.  "What spies?!" he 
demands.

     "Agents from all over, man.  The whole fuckin' alphabet soup,"
Jay shakes his head.  "CIA, SVR, SIS, DGSE, Mossad, CSIS, the NSP 
from Korea, the MSS from China...!  Hell, you name it, they're here
somewhere!"

     "They first came here after the oil incident, when the United
Nations decided to restrict all Federation aliens to Tomobiki,"
Kay adds.  "And in a way, I can understand why.  When Lum came here,
Captain Invader spoke to the United Nations directly about the Tag 
Race, avoid any talk with any of the national governments along the
way -- save Japan, of course, when you got selected as Earth's 
champion.  That sure as hell miffed a few people, especially
in Washington, Moscow, Beijing and elsewhere."

     Ataru considers the SCAA agent's words, then he sighs.  "Gotcha.
When I broke off from those two idiots and the word got around..."

     "People elsewhere saw it as a good opportunity to remind the UN
of who they were really 'working' for," Jay scowls.  "The Big Five
called for an emergency vote on the matter six hours ago.  Passed
unanimously.  THEN Zed..." -- Zed was the SCAA's director-in-chief
-- "...got told."

     The younger man sighs.  "Cute," he grumbles.  "Tell Zed-san
he has my sympathies.  So tell me:  is this permanent or temporary?"

     "We don't know," Kay shakes his head.  "From what Zed told us,
one of the representatives on the Security Council -- don't know 
which one, by the way -- said they MIGHT allow the Onis to come back
on Earth IF Lum publicly apologized for the oil incident, Tag Two and
everything else she or her friends from beyond caused that ended up 
hurting someone here."

     "I see," Ataru nods.  "So what happens now?"

     Before either of the SCAA agents could answer, Kay's special
video cell-phone rings.  "Kay," he answers it.  "What is it, Zed?"

     "A Zephyrite destroyer just pulled into orbit over Japan,"
Zed reports.  "They're beaming Inquisitors down to link up with your
team and Dee's team to deal with Lum and her friends.  Is Ataru there
with you?"

     "Yeah, he's right here," Kay waves as Ataru walks up.

     The older man, descent of French stock, nods.  "I'm really sorry
about this, son," he tries to smile.  "I heard things were starting
to get better between you and Lum.  I'm just sorry this had to 
happen."

     Ataru blinks, then nods.  "Thanks, Zed-san.  Let me see if I can
try to get something better from the Inquisition, alright?"

     Zed considers that, then sighs.  "Don't go overboard."

     "I'll try not to," Ataru promises...

*    *    *

     Minutes later, the door leading to Ataru's bedroom opens.  
Looking inside, he frowns on seeing a wet-faced Lum, now being held
by Negako.  Also there is Kotatsuneko, who presently cradles a crying
Ten-chan.  Fortunately, Ataru understood well about keeping this 
matter secret from certain parties in Tomobiki; Negako had assured
him earlier that, when she arrived in town, she used her shiatsu
skills and stealth to temporarily incapacitate Mendou, Megane and the
Bodyguards.  They weren't expected to recover for another two days
at the most.  Far too late to "help" Lum.

     Gazing at the giant cat-ghost, Ataru smiles, then gently strokes
the fur on Kotatsuneko's head.  "Thanks for coming."

     Kotatsuneko smiles, then stares at Negako.  "He says he was more
than happy to come at this time and wishes the silly humans in New 
York would be more compassionate about it," the grandmistress
provides.

     Ten-chan sniffs, then stares at Negako.  "You can understand
wh-what K-kota-chan says, Negako-oneechan?" he burbles.

     "I can understand the language of all sentient beings on this
planet, even the non-corporeal ones," Negako explains.  
"Understandable, seeing that until five years ago, I was one of 
them."

     Ataru sighs.  "Yeah," he turns to the door.  "Gentlemen?"

     Kay and Jay step inside.  Behind the two SCAA agents are two 
young Zephyrite men in black, ankle-length robes tied with gold cord
at the waist (the Lawgivers were holstered on thigh straps under the
robes, easily accessed through a slit in the robe itself).  Seeing
the Inquisitors, the two Onis begin to quake as Negako helps Lum 
stand up.  Noting the looks on their faces, Kay and Jay exchange
a look, then the former reaches into his jacket pocket to draw a 
piece of computer print-out, opening it to read:

     "Lum no Midorinokaminoke-oni," he begins, addressing Lum by the
clumsy "tribal" name and not her Imperial one, Lum Redet.  He then
looks at Ten-chan.  "Jariten no Midorinokaminoke-oni.
By order of the Security Council of the United Nations of the planet
Earth, under Special Resolution 6964 passed this day in New York 
City, your visas allowing you to live on Earth, in the district
of Tomobiki, ward of Nerima, metropolitan city of Tokyo, in 
Dai-Nihon, a member state of the United Nations..." a pause, then he
finishes, "...are cancelled.  Thus, you both will vacate this planet
by twelve o'clock midnight local time this evening, returning
to your home planet.  Further, under Clause Two of Resolution
6964, neither of you are permitted to take with you any citizen
of any nation of Earth, especially this man here," he indicates
Ataru.  "To aid us in ensuring this happens with dispatch, 
Inquisitor-Archdeacon Malefire and Inquisitor-Deacon Skyrain of the
Holy Inquisition of the Republic of Zephyrus are here to monitor
your departure and return to your home planet's space.  Your Grace?"

     The older of the Inquisitors steps up.  "Lum Redet, Jariten
Redet," he thinly smiles, the dark eyes radiating such a level of 
malice, it causes even Kotatsuneko to falter.  Ataru doesn't look at
the alien police officer and Negako ignores it.  "I trust your 
affairs are all in order?"

     Lum sniffs, then nods.  "Hai, they are."

     "Very well, then," Highridge Malefire stares directly into her
eyes.  "Be warned, young lady.  There are many on this planet who 
will GLADLY see you dragged to their World Court and face many 
charges of crimes against humanity for what you allowed to happen
two weeks ago, not to mention all the OTHER times you decided your
desires mattered more than the good health of the inhabitants
of Earth.  While the United Nations has not seen fit to see you 
charged, WE will gladly do it for them.  But we will respect their
desire that this matter is resolved peacefully.  Do NOT cause 
problems if you both value your continued freedom.  Understood?"

     "H-hai," Lum stammers.

     Watching this, Ataru quakes, his fists clenching.  Damn it, they
didn't need to hold a bloody axe over Lum's head to make her leave
the planet!  Calming himself, he clears his throat.  "Your Grace?"

     Malefire blinks, then turns to Ataru, his icy look melting
into a warm, respectful smile.  "Young Master Ataru," he inclines
his head, his companion doing likewise.  "I was overjoyed to be told
by Brother Darklight Sunfire of the wonderful news concerning
the restoration of your memories and your final parting from those
heretics you once called your parents.  If you wish to see those 
heretics properly punished for their barbarous acts against you and
your truly most righteous grandmother...?"

     "Thank you, Your Grace, but I believe leaving them to wither
on the vine, with no access to Grandma's wealth or other mortal 
possessions, is punishment enough," Ataru shakes his head, then 
sighs.  "I realize I really have no right to ask this, but I will.
Regardless of how the Six Churches may look upon Lum, I'd strongly
hope that you and your comrades will see to it she and her cousin
receive a safe escort back to Oni space."

     The Inquisitor archdeacon blinks.  "An...!  Unusual request,
indeed, Young Master.  Considering her many acts against your own 
person...!"

     "That, I would've hoped to've peacefully resolved with Lum 
*without* outside interference," Ataru cuts in, then sighs.  "Sadly,
I accept that such a chance has been taken away from me.  But I hope
for that chance to come back to me in the future.  Surely, you can 
understand that."

     Malefire's eyebrow arches, then he sighs.  "Please understand
why I must now say this, Young Master.  But I feel you are TOO 
forgiving to this woman, not to mention those who've allied with 
her," he stares at Lum.

     Ataru closes his eyes.  "Perhaps.  But forgiveness is an option
I choose to take, Your Grace.  That is my right, is it not?"

     A soft chuckle escapes the Inquisitor's lips.  "It is.  Very 
well, then, Young Master.  Your friends will make it home, whole and
hearty.  Besides, I doubt the Noukiites will foray anywhere close
to Toshitto."

     "Thank you, Your Grace," Lum's would-be husband nods.

     With that, Malefire's eyes harden as he gazes on Lum.  "You have
fifteen minutes to say your good-byes.  No more."

     "H-hai!" Lum nods.

     The Inquisitors walk out of the room.  Jay and Kay exchange
a look, then the former pats Ataru's shoulder.  "Nicely played."

     With that, the SCAA agents step out, followed by Kotatsuneko.
Ataru watches them go, then turns to Ten-chan.  "Did you really mean
that?" the younger Oni floats up to stare into Ataru's eyes.

     "Yeah, I meant that," Ataru places a hand on Ten-chan's
shoulder.  "Now, listen to me, Ten.  I want you to promise me 
something.  I want you to keep an eye out for Lum-chan, here, okay?"
he points to Lum, then sighs.  "And tell Benten and Oyuki to help 
keep an eye on things, too, alright?  It's time for you to become
a big boy now.  Can you do it?"

     Ten-chan blinks, then shakily straightens himself.  "O-okay!"
he bites his lip, trying not to break down and cry.

     "Alright," Ataru nods, squeezing Ten-chan's shoulder.  "Now,
remember one thing, Ten.  Wars are not fun, not one bit.  Don't take
chances, okay?"

     "Indeed, Jariten, he is correct," Negako speaks up.  "The fact
that Ataru is willing to turn his back on such matters speaks highly
of him."

     Ten-chan blinks.  "But you're gonna t-turn him into a great 
warrior, N-negako-oneechan, j-just like you and Nassur-chan
are..."

     "Jariten," Negako steps up to him, placing her hand on his 
shoulder.  "There is a simple philosophy in our clan when it comes
to war.  'Wars do not make one great.  Wars normally make one dead.'"

     "In other words, don't fight unless it's for the right reason
and there's no other choice but to fight," Ataru adds.  "Okay?"

     Ten-chan stares at them, then sniffs.  "O-okay.  I guess you 
aren't such an idiot after all," he tries to smile, then looks down.

     "Yeah, guess not," Ataru chuckles, then stares at Lum.

     "Come, Jariten.  We best leave them be," Negako walks Ten-chan
out.

     "'Bye, Ataru," the young Oni waves.

     The door closes behind him.  Ataru sighs, then turns to Lum.  
She stares at him, then smiles as she sinks into his embrace.  
"Darling..."

     "Gomen," he kisses her forehead.

     "I love you."

     Ataru tenses, then sighs.  "Lum..."

     The Oni blinks, then stares into his eyes.  "Darling?"

     He sighs, then returns her look.  "What do you want me to say 
now, Lum-chan?  The truth or what you've always wanted to hear from
me?"

     Lum considers that, then sighs.  "The truth," she whispers.

     "Okay," he nods.  "The truth is this:  at the very least, I 
looked on you as the most wonderful person ever to enter my life.
There were so many times I pinched myself, wondering what the hell
I did to deserve you, Lum.  Maybe..." he bows his eyes, then shrugs.
"Maybe my doubting it so much lead to a lot of the problems we had.
I'm sorry for that.  If..." he bites his lip, then closes his eyes.
Tears streak down his cheeks.  "If we had the chance now, I'd've
gladly learned HOW to love you.  That we could've made something
special for just us, not anyone else.  And..." he takes a deep 
breath, then draws her close, kissing her forehead.  "I hope if the
chance comes, you'll come back, Lum-chan.  I really do."

     Lum smiles.  "Oh, Darling," she pulls away, then bows her head.
"I'm sorry I presumed so much, let them..." she gazes out a nearby
window at the city beyond, "...trick me into trusting them so much.
I..." she stares at him.  "I promise that if I do come back, I won't
let that happen again."

     Ataru smiles before drawing her close.  They warmly kiss, then
stare into the other's eyes.  "Be careful out there, okay?  If these
guys have *that* long of a grudge against you, it isn't going to be 
pretty."

     "I will," Lum nods...

*    *    *

     A little under ten minutes later, Lum's scoutship, towing 
Ten-chan's starboat, lifts away from Tomobiki for the final time.
Launching from her lot near the Moroboshi home, Lan's rose-hued
scoutship soon joins its tiger-striped counterpart over Shinjuku,
then both arc upwards, as if they were flying to the bright Moon 
overhead.  Then, a grey-hulled Zephyrite destroyer, a flamingo-shaped
craft about the same size as Captain Invader's command battlewagon
"Kashin," slips in behind the two Urusian ships.  On the streets
of Tomobiki, people stop to look, many pointing and calling out to 
their friends, quickly spreading the word around.

     Watching this from the top of the Toranoseishin Finances 
building, Ataru shakes his head.  "Guess none of those people ever
expected something like THIS to happen, eh, Onee-chan?" he sighs,
then stares at Negako.  "You guessed something like this would've
happened, didn't you?"

     Negako is unperturbed by his look.  "Yes, I did.  There were 
many possible scenarios in this situation.  Indeed, some might 
conclude that my restoring your memories, thus leading to your 
rejection of Kinshou and Muchi, DID cause this to happen.  Yes, I 
could have chosen to stay away and let you live in ignorance.
But if that happened, one of several things might have occurred
that would've lead to a far-less pleasant conclusion for you and 
Lum."  She stares at him.  "The Noukiites are not the only factors
involved.  As James and Kenneth could inform you, there are 
governments on Earth who would have done anything to see our planet
rid of Lum.  There are fundamentalist factions from a dozen 
religions, ultra-conservative social groups and industrial 
corporations who, for whatever reason, would not have blinked an eye
if Lum was assassinated or coerced to their cause.  What of Lum's
friends from afar, those you know and those you don't?  What trouble
could have arisen from that quarter, perhaps?"  She sighs, then turns
back to gaze on the city.  "Knowing you as I do so well, I chose the
scenario which potentially lead to the most peaceful solution for 
all."

     He considers that, then sighs.  "Yes, it was that, wasn't it?"

     "I am pleased you agree," she turns around.  "Now, it is time
for you to learn exactly WHO and WHAT you are, Ataru.  We best be out
of Tomobiki long before the sun rises, before any of the fools who 
normally preyed on you decide to seek you out and try to ascertain
what happened.  Agreed?"

     Ataru blinks, then winces.  "Yeah, I can do to not see any of 
those dorks for a few months, I suppose.  What about school and all
that?"

     "I will have Reigi arrange your withdrawal from Tomobiki High
School as we are travelling, plus ensure no one like Shutaro learns
of it for a while to come," Negako states as they step into the 
tower, heading towards the suites where they had stayed last night.
"You can be inserted into another school quickly enough if you so 
desire.  But that should not concern you at this time, Ataru.  Other
matters are more important."

     "True, true," he nods.  "So where are we going?"

     "You will see..."

*    *    *

     Around Tokyo, late the next morning...

     "...NHK BS News at fifty minutes to the hour," the reporter
gazes at her audience.  "Early this morning in the Diet, Internal
Affairs Minister Mogataru Kooga announced that the Oni princess
Lum, who has been residing in Tomobiki district of Tokyo's Nerima
Ward, was expelled from Earth late last night at the direct order
of the United Nations.  Also forced to leave Earth, potentially
never to return again, are Lum-san's cousin Jariten and a close 
friend of the Oni princess, Lan.  When questioned by reporters,
Kooga-daijin reported that the so-called 'Second Tag Race' factored
heavily into the United Nations' decision to see Lum-san expelled..."

*    *    *

     "WHAT?!?!?!" Shutaro Mendou bellows, then gasps, clutching
his chest as searing pain overwhelms him, he collapsing into his bed.
"Lum-san...!" he rasps, his eyes rolling into his head as he loses
consciousness.

     "Young Master!!!" his bodyguards and servants swarm around 
him...

*    *    *

     "The room is bare?"

     "Yes, Mistress Ryooko," a Kuroko stagehand-bodyguard
bows his masked head.  "It appears Master Moroboshi moved out of his
home two days ago.  On overhearing the other residents there, it 
appears that someone granted Master Moroboshi the legal right to 
renounce all links to his parents."

     "Do you wish Master Shutaro to learn of this, Mistress?"
another Kuroko, kneeling beside his co-worker, bows.

     "No," Ryooko Mendou shakes her head, then looks away.  "Ensure
he does not learn of this for the time being."

     "Yes, Mistress," both Kuroko nod...

*    *    *

     "Lum, expelled?  And Lan and Ten-chan, too!" Shinobu Miyaki
blinks, then stares at her parents, Toshoba and Kimiki.  "Who on 
Earth would ever've imagined something like that happen?!"

     "I wonder what happened to Ataru-kun," Kimiki muses.

     "Doesn't say," her husband muses, reading his paper...

*    *    *

     "***CURSE YOU, ATARU!!!!  THIS IS ALL YOUR FA-...!!!  
URK!!!!***"

     Aisuru Megane gasps, then slumps into his bed.  Staring at her
ill son, his mother Rui shakes her head.  "Serves you right for 
worshipping that...!  That...!  That ONI all the time!" she hisses...

*    *    *

     "Momoe-san, what's going on here?!"

     "I've no idea whatsoever, Nabiki-san," Momoe Marubeya relays
over her cell-phone.  "I don't know when I can get more information,
though!  But I AM going to find out about this!  If she's really
gone..."

     "Hai, hai, got you...!"

     *CRASH!!*

     "***BAKA OYAJI!!!  THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!!!!***"

     "What was that, Nabiki-san?!"

     Nabiki Tendou sighs, glancing at the doorway of her room.  "By
the sounds of it, Ranma-kun just got wind of my father's and Uncle
Saotome's LATEST stupid brainstorm there," she mutters.  "Anyhow,
I've got to go."

     "They're too young to get married now, Nabiki-san."

     "Agreed.  That's why I'm going to stop it this time just like
I stopped it last time.  Keep me informed, okay?"

     "Right..."

*    *    *

     "It is clearly a conspiracy against the Goddess!!!"

     "Agreed!"

     "Where is the Great Evil now?!"

     "We have no idea, Commander!  Should the President be 
informed?!"

     "Immediately!"

     "Hai!!"

*    *    *

     "An ill-wind," Cherry muses, gazing at the morning air...

*    *    *

     By that time of the day, the object of much interest to many 
back in Tomobiki is crossing an isthmus of sand, littered with 
seashells, towards a circular-shaped island sitting in one sheltered
arm of the Sagami Sea south of Tokyo itself.  Like Negako, who now 
walks ahead of him, acting as his guide to Promised Island, Ataru
is dressed in hiking gear, a large backpack slung over his shoulders.
His eyes dart from the sand at his feet to the water flanking them
to the island in the distance.  They stop on focusing on what sits
on the island's highest point.  "You know, I've really got to say 
this, Onii-chan:  that has GOT to be the weirdest statue I've ever
seen!  Even the octopi statues on Mendou's pad have more class!"

     "I do not consider myself a connoisseur of artwork, but many 
people, I believe, will agree with you on that, Ataru," Negako sighs,
her eyes warily turning left and right as she gages how close the sea
is to her feet.

     Ataru senses the slight tremor in his sister's normally 
ramrod-straight body, then he reaches up to squeeze her shoulder.
"I'd think that you'd finally be over your hydrophobia, Onee-chan."

     Negako blinks, then relaxes.  "It has been difficult, 
admittedly."

     He chuckles.  Within minutes, the Moroboshi siblings step into
the lee of Promised Island, then make their way to a sea ladder to 
get them onto the level of First Street.  Climbing onto true dry 
land, they stretch themselves, then turn as a wry-looking gentleman
in his early sixties comes up.  He has the air of the classic old man
of the sea.  "Ah, Negako-san, there you are!  I see you brought
your brother with you this time!"

     "Indeed, I have," Negako stares at him.  "Were arrangements
with Welcome House made for Ataru's accommodations?"

     "Hai, hai, all ready to go!" he nods.  "Maybe when you leave
the island next time, you'll take the boat like normal people do."

     "Onee-chan's not 'normal,' Jii-san," Ataru pats Negako's 
shoulder, then he stares at her.  "What exactly IS Welcome House,
anyway?"

     "The island's youth hostel," Negako explains.  "This way."

*    *    *

     Going *this* way for five minutes leads Ataru and Negako to a 
dead-end lane.  Past an overhead archway announcing to all that they
had just come to WELCOME HOUSE, the Moroboshi siblings find 
themselves looking at a two-floor Victoria-era hotel-like building.
That is framed on both ends with four-floor rotundas topped with 
lightning rods.  Negako directs her brother towards the rotunda
closest to the shore.  "Nice place," Ataru whistles, noting several
lights were on in the rotunda.  "We alone?"

     "No, there are others staying here.  Children of parents who 
work on the mainland or abroad," Negako reports as they walk through
twin doors into a well-spaced, warmly-coloured foyer framed with 
stairs leading to the second floor.  Under the second floor overhang
is a hallway and twin doors leading to a room sited in the centre
of the tower.  Negako guides Ataru to his right past that room's
doors to the first apartment.  "Here."

     Ataru notices that a sign with his name has been posted there.
"Guess they think of everything," he opens the door to look inside.

     *POP!!*  *POP!!*  *POP!!*  *POP!!*

     "***WELCOME HOME, BIG BROTHER!!!!***"

     Ataru balks, his eyes wide, as confetti from four noisemakers
shower him, then he blinks, stunned to see four girls awaiting
him there.  To his left sits a girl of about fifteen, with 
golden-brown eyes and long brown hair, part of it done in beautiful
French braids.  She is dressed in a ruffled shirt with string tie 
over a thigh-length skirt.  Sitting in front of her is a pyxie-cute
eight-year old with purplish eyes and dirty blonde-brown hair done
up in short side ponytails.  She currently wears a gold-and-white
dress with string tie and a black petticoat underneath.  To Ataru's
right is a tall, slender woman, about his age, with royal blue eyes
and brown hair done up in twin Usagi-like ponytails (sans odangos).
She currently wears a black-and-blue T-shirt and a grey false-leather
skirt.  Sitting before her is a cute twelve-year old with maple-fudge
shaded eyes and neck-length brown hair partially covered by a white
headband.  She wears a green-and-white seifuku top with a 
blue-and-white plaid skirt.

     Negako steps up beside him, then nods.  "I see you got my 
message."

     "We had to rush some things to make sure Onii-sama's homecoming
was done right, Onee-sama," the girl with the long ponytails smiles.

     "Onee-chama, didn't you say that Onii-chama would be coming
with his girlfriend?" the girl in the seifuku blinks confusedly.

     "Kaho-chan, didn't you see the news?" the girl with the French
braids stares at the other girl.  "They sent Onii-chan's girlfriend
home."

     "That means Onii-tama and Onee-tama can read to Hina even more!"
the littlest girl gushes, leaping up to hug Negako's legs.

     Ataru blinks, blinks again, blinks even more, then he shakes
his head.  "Er...!" he slaps the side of his head.  "Not that I don't
mind the reception committee and all that, but what the hairy heck's
going on here, anyway?!  Why are you girls calling me 'big brother'
and all that?!"

     "Well, Ataru, they certainly have more than enough reasons
to do so," Negako lightly smiles, then performs introductions.
"May I present Karen Tanenobu..." -- the girl with the French braids
-- "...Kaho Eigo..." -- the girl in the seifuku -- "...Sakuya
Sukeyama..." -- the oldest girl.

     "Don't forget Hina!!" the youngest then chirps.

     Negako nods.  "Ah, yes.  And Hinako Saeru.  She prefers to be 
called 'Hina.'  They..." she gazes at Ataru, "...are your 
half-sisters."

     Silence.

     More silence.

     Still more silence.

     "Onii-sama...?" Sakuya blinks concernedly.

     Ataru blinks, then sways.  "Half-sisters...?"

     He drops, his eyes spiralling dizzily as his mind overloads
from that bombshell.  "Onii-chan!!" Karen calls out as the girls 
crowd him...

*    *    *

     Minutes later...

     "So what made Onii-tama faint, Onee-tama?"

     "You should've warned him ahead of time, Onee-sama!"

     Ataru moans, then finds himself staring at a glass-topped
ceiling crossed by thick timbers in a star-shaped pattern.  The room
that ceiling tops off is circular, the walls an evergreen shade.
Looking to his right, he finds himself staring into Hinako's face.
"Onii-tama, are you okay?"

     Ataru blinks, then reaches over to gently touch the young girl's
nose.  "You're...?  Really...?  My sister...?"

     "Ah, you've recovered," Negako steps into his viewing range,
leaning down to gaze into his eyes.  "And yes, as I said before you
fainted, they are you half-sisters, Ataru.  You all share the same
father."

     He takes that in, then grunts, sitting up.  A quick glance 
around reveals that Karen, Kaho and Sakuya were close by, sitting
beside a large, round table.  A dining room, he notes, then Ataru
stares at Negako.  "How the hell is that possible, Onee-chan?
I mean, when did...?!"

     "During the early part of his marriage to Kinshou, Muchi was 
often busy doing work for Nagaiwakai and Komeru here on Promised
Island," the ninjitsu grandmistress reports, placing a hand on 
Hinako's shoulder.  "It appears that at that stage of their 
relationship, Muchi had not emotionally committed himself fully to 
Kinshou.  Fortunately, since he is Nagaiwakai's son, there were many
on the island receptive to that.  Karen, Kaho, Sakuya and Hinako..."
she indicates the others, "...result from that."

     Ataru blinks, then sighs.  "And everyone said I had no tact?"
he mutters to himself, then buries his face into his hands.

     "It's alright, Onii-chan," Karen sits beside him, placing a hand
on his shoulder.  "Believe me, I always wondered why Tou-san..."
she catches herself, then sighs.  "Well, my step-father, I suppose
I should call him now -- was always a little distant to me when I was
growing up.  But when Onee-chan came two weeks ago and told me the 
news, I..." she shudders, then sighs.  "Oh, it just made me feel so 
happy to know I have a brother, not to mention sisters, too!" she 
indicates Negako and the others.

     "Kaho really liked it when Onee-chama came and told her the 
truth, too!" Kaho gushes, then kneels before Ataru, grasping his 
hands.  "Now Kaho can cheer Onii-chama while he's training with 
Onee-chama!"

     Ataru blinks.  "Er...!  Well...!"

     "It's alright, Onii-sama," Sakuya places a hand on Kaho's 
shoulder, she leaning down to stare into Ataru's eyes.  "This is all
new to us, too!"

     "Hina's happy Onii-tama is here!" Hinako gushes, warmly 
embracing Ataru.  "Now, Onii-tama can take Hina out to find Kuma-san
and read books to Hina and eat fruit parfait with Hina and...!!"

     "Hey, he's OUR Onii-chan, too, you know!" Karen gently scolds.

     Ataru blinks, then sighs.  "Well, this will definitely take some
getting used to!" he chuckles, pulling himself out of Hinako's
embrace, though he holds onto hers and Kaho's hand.  He then stares
at Negako, an eyebrow arching.  "I take it Muchi never knew about
any of this?"

     "No.  Further, Nagaiwakai ensured that there was no way that 
neither Muchi, Kinshou or anyone else would learn of this.  After
all, given the way clan leadership succession works in our family..."
Negako sighs, then indicates Sakuya with one hand, an eyebrow arching
knowingly.

     He nods.  "Gotcha.  Instant she comes of age -- I think we have
to get her on our family register, too -- she becomes the next 
Matriarch."

     "Exactly," Negako nods, then blinks, her eyes turning up.

     Everyone quickly notices.  "Onee-chan, are you alright?"
Karen asks as the others rise up, then look to the ceiling.  "What's
wrong?"

     Negako sighs.  "It appears Shirayuki does not listen."

     "Shirayuki-chan?!" Sakuya blinks, then sighs.  "You mean she's
the one who made those awful kimch'i rice puddings last night?"

     "Um, Onee-chan, who's Shirayuki anyway?" Ataru wonders, his 
stomach doing a flip-flop on hearing the phrase "kimch'i rice 
pudding."  To him, it sounded like something Lum might've created
on a mad lark.

     "Shirayuki Osamu.  She lives here, too," Negako explains,
then her eyes narrow.  "Karen, have some cold water prepared.
Aria, Rinrin and Yotsuba are with Shirayuki in Rinrin's room.  They
were affected."

     "Hai!" Karen races off...

*    *    *

     In two minutes, pitchers and glasses are set out on the dining
room table.  Negako has gone upstairs with Sakuya, Kaho and Hinako
as Karen sets things out.  Ataru offers to help, but is waved down
by Karen, she telling him, "It's alright, Onii-chan.  You just 
arrived.  We're used to this."

     "You mean bad cooking?" Ataru sighs.

     "Well, Shirayuki-chan really, really tries her best when she 
cooks something," Karen moderates.  "But then again, she hasn't had
much time to practice.  Her parents left her in the House's care only
two months ago."

     "Where did they g-...?"

     The dining room doors fly open, cutting off Ataru's question.
He and Karen watch as the others stream in.  Negako carries two 
girls, though Hinako holds one's hand.  Sakuya carries another one.
Kaho helps a fourth one stagger in.  The four newcomers are placed
in chairs, then glasses of water are poured for them by Karen.  
Seeing that, they grab the glasses and chug them down quickly.
"Ah!!" one breathes out, scratching the back of her head.  She is a 
girl of thirteen or so, with brown eyes and mauve hair partially
tied by with a big, black bowtie.  She currently wears a white blouse
with tie, black vest and matching black skirt.  "Oh, how could Hime
make such an awful mistake with her kimch'i rice puddings?"

     "It's okay, Shirayuki-chan!" the girl beside her goes and pours
herself another glass.  This one is a fourteen-year old with brown
eyes and dark brown hair cut short at her neck.  She wears a green
ankle-length, full-sleeve skirt with white collars, welding goggles
on her forehead.  "It's like science!  You gotta keep testing to make
it work right."

     "Maybe it was something about that oven you built for 
Shirayuki-chan there, Rinrin-chan," the newcomer seated to Ataru's
right sighs, her voice flicked with a London accent.  The same age as
Rinrin, she has gold-brown eyes and shaggy brown hair done up in 
side-by-side ponytails at the back of her head.  Further indicative
that she is part-English is her clothing:  a Union Jack tie around
a white shirt, that topped with a red vest, gold skirt and black 
stockings, the whole topped by a brown cape Sherlock Holmes might
wear.  Even more, she has a hand-held spyglass in her pocket.

     The last of the newcomers is a ten-year old now dressed in 
something straight out of the period Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived
in when he wrote about his famous detective:  a blue-and-white,
ankle-length hoop skirt with bowties, gloves and more crenelle
lace that you can shake the proverbial stick at.  Her platinum
hair is covered by a bonnet, the hair itself tied in three buns at 
the back of her neck.  As she finishes her glass of water, her purple
eyes suddenly fix on Ataru, then go wide in recognition.  "Ah!" she
grins, her voice airy, her accent strongly flecked with Paris.  
"Nii-ya!  Nee-ya brought Nii-ya to be with Aria like Nee-ya 
promised!"

     "EH?!?!" everyone gasps as the other newcomers stare at the lone
man there, the Sherlock Holmes-wannabe taking a close look with her
spy glass.

     Shirayuki stands up, grinning delightedly.  "Nii-sama?!"

     "Aniki!!  You're here!" Rinrin gushes.

     "Ani-chama!!" the Holmes-wannabe shudders, then bops the top of
her head with her fist.  "Yotsuba's slipping!  Yotsuba should've
known that if Ane-chama's here today, then Ani-chama came with her!!"

     Ataru jolts, his eyes going VERY wide, then he starts to sway.
"No, not you, too...!!" he moans before collapsing on the couch.

     "BIG BROTHER!!!!" all the younger sisters cry out...

*    *    *

     Minutes later...

     "Aniki, are you okay?!"

     "Onii-sama sure didn't take to THAT pretty well!"

     Ataru moans, then sits up before noticing that TWICE the number
of young girls were now crowded around him, all staring concernedly
at him.  Shaking his head, he then jolts on seeing a slender hand 
holding his left arm at the wrist.  Attached to that is Aria.  To his
other side is Hinako.  "Onii-chan, are you okay?" Karen asks.  "Do 
you want some water?"

     "I...!  I...!" Ataru stutters, then he sighs.  "Onee-chan,
if this your idea of a surprise, I must confess it is working 
brilliantly!!"

     Hearing that, everyone laughs (except Negako, of course).
"Yes, they too are your half-sisters, Ataru," the ninjitsu 
grandmistress sighs, then indicates each of the newcomers.  "These
are Yotsuba Nemain Dunn, Rinrin Hatoyama, Shirayuki Osamu and Aria
Claudia Jeanne Louise des Beauchamps."

     "Um...!" his eyebrow twitches, then he waves.  "Hi, girls!"

     "Oh, Nii-sama, Hime is so happy you're here!" Shirayuki leaps
up, clapping her hands in anticipation.  "Oh, Hime should try to make
something good for Nii-sama so he can feel at home here with us!"

     "Um, Shirayuki-chan, do you really want to give Aniki a taste
of those rice puddings you made last night?" Rinrin's eyebrow arches.

     Shirayuki balks, then she sighs.  "Oh..."

     "Well, it doesn't mean to stop trying, Shirayuki-chan,"
Ataru gazes at her, then hums, turning to see that Yotsuba was 
scanning him intently with her spy glass.  "And what are **you**
looking at, Yotsuba-chan?"

     "At Ani-chama!" the would-be detective smirks.  "Yotsuba is 
going to keep checking Ani-chama until Yotsuba learns all of 
Ani-chama's secrets!"

     "Oh?!" his eyebrow arches.  His hand snaps the spy glass away
from Yotsuba, then SHE gets the look-over.  "And WHO watches the 
watcher?!"

     Yotsuba acks, some of the other girls falling over in merriment.
Ataru then jolts as Aria tugs his shirt sleeve.  "Nii-ya," she smiles
cutely at him.  "Did Nii-ya walk with Nee-ya to see Aria?  Aria hopes
so.  Nee-ya doesn't like coming here because Umi-san scares Nee-ya."

     He takes that in, then returning Yotsuba's spy glass to her, 
pats Aria's hand.  "Don't worry, Aria-chan," he winks playfully
at the young Parisian.  "Nii-ya made sure Umi-san didn't scare 
Nee-ya."

     Aria blinks, then impishly shrugs.  "Kusu..."

     Suddenly a rolling sound echoes through the dining room, causing
everyone to look up.  "What's that?!" Sakuya demands.

     "Sounds like Mamoru-chan skating around," Kaho reports.

     "Ah, the others are coming now," Negako is nonplussed.

     Everyone looks at her.  "'Others?!!'"

     Ataru pales.  "You mean...!"

     A *crash!!* echoes from overhead, causing people to look up as 
part of the glass ceiling falls away, soaring right for Ataru's
head.  "ANII, ANEE, EVERYONE, LOOK OUT!!!" a girl's voice cries out
in warning.

     Before the glass could hit, a flash of tempered steel rips it in
half, sending the pieces flying harmlessly to both sides of the 
crowd.  As people close in on Ataru, a lithe form lands on the table,
then flips onto the floor.  "Anigimi-sama, Anegimi-sama, everyone,
are you alright?"

     The questioner is a woman Sakuya's height, with blue eyes and 
long black hair tied in a high ponytail.  She is draped in a pink 
hakama top and pleaded skirt over lace-up boots, a naginata in hand.
Before people can say a word to her, someone lands hands-first
on the table, then with great skill, somersaults to the floor beside
the naginata-welder.

     "Haruka-chan!  Mamoru-chan!" Karen calls out.  "You, too?!"

     The second newcomer distantly resembles Rinrin, though her hair
is shaggier, more of a chocolate shade in colour.  Most of it is now
covered by a cap.  As befitting one who is a serious sportswoman,
she is dressed in a dark green spandex bodysuit topped with a 
matching green-and-orange track top.  In-line rollerblades
cover her feet and a pair of sunglasses are perched on her forehead.
"Sorry about that, Anii, Anee, everyone!" she flusters, balancing
herself perfectly on her skates.  "I was trying to get down the 
stairs, but when I saw you were here, I got too excited..."

     "And you might've killed some of us were it not for 
Haruka-chan," Sakuya sends the skater an annoyed look, indicating
the martial artist with her hand.  "Good grief, Mamoru-chan,
you KNOW the people running the House don't like it when you skate
around indoors on your rollerblades!"

     "So?!" Mamoru looks miffed.

     "Them, too?" Ataru stares at Negako.

     "Haruka Tenhiro.  Mamoru Itou," Negako indicates each girl.

     Hearing their names, the newcomers perk up, then they gaze 
warmly at Ataru.  "It's so good to meet you at last, Anigimi-sama,"
Haruka blushes.

     "Yeah!  When Anee told us you can run marathons and all that 
'cause of that alien girl you know, I got really excited!" Mamoru
grins.

     Ataru takes that in, then stares at Negako.  "Is that all?"

     The ninjitsu grandmistress moves to answer, then turns toward
the doors as a voice almost as timid as Aria's calls out, "Hello?
Aneue-sama, did you finally come with Aniue-sama...?  Oh!  Hello,
everyone!"

     People turn as a frail girl Karen's age, possessing blue eyes
under glasses and long black hair in a thick braid, steps inside.
She currently wears a white shirt, black vest over a green, 
ankle-length skirt.  Beside her is a beautiful golden retriever
almost as big as she is.  "Marie-chan, what are you doing...?"
Karen begins, then she gasps, turning to Negako.  "Onee-chan,
you don't mean that Marie-chan's also...?!"

     "A half-sister.  Yes, Karen, she is.  Ataru, this is Marie 
Susumu.  The dog beside her is Marie's pet, Michael," Negako does 
introductions.

     Marie stares at Ataru, then her cheeks flame before she starts
to sway.  "Oh, Aniue-sama, I'm so glad you...!  You...!!"

     She collapses.  "Marie-chan!!!" Sakuya cries out, then gasps
as a blur rips past her to land beside Marie before her head bounces
off the floor.  That blur becomes Ataru as he lifts Marie up, then
moves to carry the dazed newcomer to the couch.  "Onii-sama...!"

     "Marie-chan, are you okay?!" Hinako calls out as Ataru sits 
Marie down, then moves to pour the dazed girl a glass of water.

     Suddenly, a star-shaped patch of bright light appears on the 
dining room table, causing everyone to cry out in shock.  That patch
suddenly fades, revealling a girl Sakuya's and Haruka's height,
draped in a solid black cape from neck to toe, a witch's pointed
hat perched on her head.

     "Oh, man, you don't mean...!" Mamoru tenses.  "Her, too?!"

     The newcomer whips off the hat and cape, revealling a girl with
purple hair done up in a bun and very dark eyes.  Under the cape,
she wore a shirt, red tie with a white Gothic cross, plaid vest, 
ankle-length grey skirt and a black blazer.  As everyone relaxes,
the newcomer stares at Ataru, giving him a jaunty wave.  "Yo, 
Ani-kun.  I see all's well."

     "Chikage-chan, too?" Sakuya blinks, then sighs.

     Ataru stares at the sorceress, then sighs, sitting down beside
the dozing Marie.  "Excuse me, please," he mutters, then passes out.

     Everyone stares at her, then sighs, even Negako.  "I see Ani-kun
took THAT very well, didn't he?" Chikage gently titters...

*    *    *

To be continued...

**** **** ****

WRITER'S NOTES:

1)     Since no one has EVER openly discussed a possible romantic
paring between the male leads of two of Takahashi-sensei's
well-known manga series (especially when one of them can easily 
become a girl with cold water!), I decided it was worth exploring.
Naturally, many people warned me away from it.  To be frankly honest,
the only effect THOSE warnings had on me was to allow my imagination
to go wild on this topic.  So there!

2)     I began writing this story on the day before the world was 
shaken by the twin attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon
(the news of it was broken to me by my employer Tuesday night [Korea
time] on 11 September 2001, just prior to the final collapse of the
towers in NYC).  Like so many others worldwide, I was badly shaken
by what happened in New York and Washington.  However, like some 
other events in my life, the sheer tragedy of it all got me to 
thinking about how Islamic extremists might have come to view the 
worldwide "oil theft" depicted in the second "UY" television
episode.  One possible result of that is depicted here.

NOTE:  PLEASE understand that this story is NOT meant, in any way,
shape or form, as an indiction against Islam, its worshippers
or its core beliefs as written in the Qu'ran by the Prophet Mohammed.

3)     This story could be seen as an "alternate" outcome of events
depicted in the teaser of the UY-TSY story "Noa," where Noa bonded
the young Ataru to someone else in a Sagussan-style *marei'cha*
and *surei'cha* bonding.  However, I will not include this in an 
overall listing of UY-TSY stories.

4)     Some of the side characters that pop up from time to time in 
this story are inspired by a ton of Ranma fics I've taken greatly
to over the last few years.  Among those works (they're too many to 
list here) are those of Hung Nyugen, Robert Haynie Jr. and Eric 
Hallstrom.  To them and to all the others out there that I didn't
mention, my profound thanks.

5)     Thanks also to the following who sent messages which both 
encouraged and helped me improve this story bit by bit ever since
the first draft (if your name doesn't show up here, I apologize)
first got out on the FFML:

Alex Mewett - Christopher Gilbert - "Cobalt" - Craig Helfgott - Dani
and Jerry Yanega - "Dave" - David Glass - Edward Becerra - "Ertle2"
- Helmut Steeg - "Howard, the Grum" - James Merritt - Joerg 
Janshen-Jaeger - John Reisbeck - John Surber - Kenneth Dohl - "Megane
6.7" - Michael A. Chase - Michael Foerster - "Newfie Spaceman"
- Oystein Rambol - "Quick Silver Knight" - Richard Robinson - Richard
Speidel - Robert Masters - Rui Costa - Stephen J. Scalaro - Steven
Musgrave - Ted Hsu - Thiemo Guenther - Thomas Dye - Tim Brazeau
- "Tim TAW" - Toby Kilbreath - Trishna Malhi - "Ty9396"

6)     Naturally, a big thanks to Steven P. Cornett and Robert Geiger
for their many words and support.  Given the recent death of my 
mother, Eleanor B. Kushnir (who also served as editor for my past 
fanfic works), whatever critical C&C I can get from everyone else is
more than welcome.

7)     The translation of "Misoch'ounsa" (Angel's Smile), courtesty
of ...

Tell me that you love me!
I cannot stand that you're never mine!
You really break my heart!

Tchajungnaego hwareul
Naedo tto nouoe misoman pomyoun
Pabo kat'eun na...

Noun nuga pwado aju yeppeugo
T'amseurou'un sagwa kat'a kkaemurou
Chugo ship'ou anajugo ship'ou
Noueui p'ingk'eu pit hwasare kkojoussou.

Noun moduege neul ch'injourae
Keuraesou ch'akkakdeul haji
Namaneui aeinin'goul ijji an'atdamyoun
Naege tou isang changnanch'ijineun ma.

Yokshimi chinach'in koulkka
Chashini oumneun koulkka
Puran'an ma'eum ppunya...

**** **** **** 


             .---Anime/Manga Fanfiction Mailing List----.
             | Administrators - ffml-admins@anifics.com |
             | Unsubscribing - ffml-request@anifics.com |
             |     Put 'unsubscribe' in the subject     |
             `---- http://ffml.anifics.com/faq.txt -----'